For some time, it has been suspected that the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government was fudging its data on the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic. We had reported on the 6th of April that at least eleven people who had tested positive for the virus had died in the state and yet, the official records of the state claimed that the figure was only three. Now, a report on The Statesmen claims that the Kolkata Municipal Corporation recorded ten deaths due to the virus while the West Bengal Health Ministry led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee continued to claim that only five people had succumbed to the disease.
The report by Subhendu Maiti on The Statesman says that the list of deaths due to the Wuhan Coronavirus compiled by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation says that ten patients died of the disease across government and private hospitals such as the NRS Hospital, R.G.Kar Medical College, M.R.Bangur Super Speciality Hospital, AMRI Hospitals at Salt Lake, Peerless Hospital and Zenith Super Specialty Hospital. The deceased were buried or cremated as per their religious beliefs between the 23rd of March and 6th of April, the report mentioned.
The deceased were residents of Dum Dum, Ultadanga, Shibpur, New Garia, Belghoria, Maheshtala in South 24 Paraganas, Baidyabati in Hooghly, Thakurpukur, and Cossipore in Kolkata. The authorities in KMC, when questioned about the matter, were hesitant to support their own list and risk the wrath of Mamata Banerjee should they disagree. The discrepancy between the numbers is due to the fact that the West Bengal government has decided not to attribute the cause of death to the Wuhan Coronavirus in case the patient was suffering from comorbid issues.
Unlike other states which are attributing the cause of death to the Wuhan Coronavirus in case the deceased has tested positive for the virus, the West Bengal government has set up an ‘expert committee’ to determine the cause of death after going through the test results, medical history and other documents of the deceased. “We have formed a committee of five doctors who will decide the actual cause of death. They are the experts, I am not. We do not want to create panic among people. Please trust the doctors,” chief minister Mamata Banerjee said.
In a significant incident on the 2nd of April, after an expert committee announced that seven people had died due to the Chinese Coronavirus in Bengal, Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha quickly issued an “explanation” to claim that the number of deaths was in, fact, three. Subsequently, the expert committee was formed to determine the official cause of death. All of this is a matter of significant concern as there appears to be a dedicated attempt underway to fudge data regarding the pandemic in the state. Given the seriousness of the question, it remains to be seen whether Mamata Banerjee and her government decide to course correct now that the cat is out of the bag.